Michigan Senate passes controversial concealed-carry bill

Bryce Kobe, Staff Reporter

A new package of gun bills recently passed through the Michigan Senate allowing concealed carry in “gun free zones” in specific cases.

While many people have polarized opinions on gun control in general, this particular issue may affect students more directly than they realize.

This package, if cleared by the House, would allow those with a concealed pistol license (CPL) to carry handguns in traditionally prohibited places. These include schools, day-care centers, bars, stadiums, and churches. These places are known as “gun free zones.”

While these advanced CPLs will require an extra eight hours of training, none of that training will relate to a live shooter scenario. Senator Curtis Hertel, representing the 23rd District of Michigan, finds issue with this.

“If we were talking about being trained for live fire situations, I would understand that, but an extra eight hours on a shooting range won’t make a difference in a live fire situation,” Hertel said. “We have police officers that are highly trained to go into tough situations with active shooters, and none of these people will be trained that way.”

Bars, stadiums and other private businesses will have some power to prohibit guns, but public schools have no such power.

“Schools are not able to opt out of this law whatsoever, unlike bars, restaurants and other businesses,” Hurtel said.

Dean Bolton, Vice President of the the Okemos Board of Education, personally doesn’t support this attempted reform.

I am opposed to the bill that would allow individuals to carry a concealed firearm in schools or on school property. My concern is for the safety of our students, staff, and those visiting our schools. The presence of firearms, openly carried or concealed, would be disruptive to the learning environment,” Bolton said.

He also elaborated on the specific school rules.

A board of education would be allowed to set policies prohibiting their own students and staff from possessing firearms on district property, but could not enforce those policies on students and staff from other districts visiting Okemos for events such as games or concerts, or any other events,” Bolton said.

Additionally, these bills lower the age for having a CPL to 18.

The bill passed via a 25-12 vote on Nov. 8, with strong opposition from the Democrats and all but one Republican voting in favor of the bill. It is expected to pass the House as well, as it also has a Republican Majority.

The legislation came just a few days after the church massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas, which killed 25 people and injured 20 more. This has generated strong feelings both in support and in opposition of the bill.

“I can see how a lot of people would be concerned, but the Constitution is very clear on the right to carry and I don’t think there should be restrictions on where you can carry,” Jude Alge (12) said. “However, I think institutions should be allowed to make rules prohibiting guns. The government doesn’t know a specific institution’s situation better than they do, so if they feel like they need a rule about guns, then yeah they should be able to do that.”

The main concern from opponents of the bill is the safety of students and other people in similar situations.

“We’ve had situations where someone with a holster sits down and the gun falls out without them realizing. There was a kid in Dearborn, in a daycare center, who accidentally shot another two year old kid because of a case like that,” Hertell said.

Emma Eagle (12) agrees with Hertell.

“I agree that most schools don’t have great protection, but there are other remedies to that. In schools that already have security guards, I think it would be especially counterproductive,” Eagle said.

While safety is the primary concern for those opposed, the bill will likely have additional repercussions.

“In other states that have done this, the liability insurance for those schools go astronomically higher,” Hertel said. “We are already underfunding education, by approximately $1000 per kid, and this will just make it worse.”

According to Hertel, private schools may be allowed the same provisions as businesses, which could encourage more people to send their kids to private schools, creating another conundrum for the public school system.

With the House expected to confirm the bill, Hertel and the rest of the Democrats are hoping for Governor Rick Snyder to veto, as he did with similar legislation in 2012.